Scotsman Green Skills conference: Why climate change is facing an 'attention crisis'

Climate change is facing an "attention crisis" in the face of the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis – and Scotland must focus on people and not numbers to achieve its environmental ambitions, a conference has been told.

That was the core message from Dave Reay, director of the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, as he opened The Scotsman's annual Green Skills conference.

He said: "There's a real danger at the moment of missing opportunities to tackle climate change because of these other hopefully short term, but very acute issues – war in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis, energy and food crises. And that is leading to a climate change attention crisis.

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"But if you think about all of these challenges, climate change is the underpinning risk factor in terms of making them worse.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity. Picture: PA
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"If we think about those [climate change] pledges we've got in Scotland, the UK and globally, they aren't just numbers on a bit of paper or on a spreadsheet. What matters is the people. What matters is how the targets are implemented, the skill-sets and how people work locally.

"It's the workforce that is going to deliver a resilient and fair transition to net zero.”

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Lorna Slater MSP, the Scottish Government's green skills, circular economy and biodiversity minister, laid out the skills challenge.

She said: "Everywhere I go, I hear people saying ‘but we don't have enough people who know how to install heat pumps, or design heating systems, or install charging points for electric vehicles’. One of the challenges I'm bringing to you here is what tools do we have at our disposal collectively to bring skilled workers into these areas – transportation, heating buildings and energy?"

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Christine Currie, head of skills policy at global body Opito, said it was important to be pragmatic about how workers in, for example, the oil and gas sector could transfer into ‘green’ careers.

“It’s not just about ‘there are going to be lots of jobs’,” she said. “It’s about the practical steps people need to get into this space.”

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She gave an example, adding: “If you were an electrical technician in oil and gas, and want to work in renewables, what does that actually mean in terms of what’s recognised in terms of your skills, competencies and qualifications? What top-up training might be needed and where do you get it?”

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